I’m sure there’s no need to waste time persuading you that keyword analysis is one of the most lucrative SEO practices that is important for your marketing success.
There’s also no shortage of great articles that offer you detailed instructions on how to do qualified keyword analysis, rank high for thousands of specific search terms, and greatly improve your Google traffic.
But here’s an interesting observation: each of these manuals is going to give you a slightly different set of directions.
Not that any of them are telling you right, it’s just that there’s no standard solution to the execution of keyword analysis.
It will vary on the basis of:
- Your website (authority, number of pages, quality of content, etc);
- Your goals and objectives (branding, exposure, traffic, leads, sales);
- Your budget, resources, and deadlines;
- Your industry and competitive landscape.
That’s why you may find it hard to respond to the random step-by-step guidance you meet.
And I promise that the strategies and approaches mentioned below will greatly improve the traffic from Google.
- Start with seed keywords –
Seed keywords are the foundation of your research keyword. We describe your position and allow you to recognize your rivals.
If you already have a brand or service that you want to advertise online, it’s as easy to come up with seed keywords as explaining the item with your own terms and brainstorming how other people might be searching for it.
Let’s say, for example, that you are launching an online store with GoPro accessories. The Google searches (keywords) you’d first think of are:
- GoPro accessories;
- gadgets for GoPro;
- GoPro add-ons.
This is a no-brainer, isn’t it?
Yet what if you’re looking to start an affiliate marketing platform, and you don’t know what segment to choose or what items to promote?
The difficulty of “taking a place” needs a large and thorough guide of its own. Yet, generally speaking, there are two ways to approach this:
- “Monetisation first” approach –
Begin researching the possible monetization approaches. Choose the product or offer you like. And then think of the search queries that people might be using to find in Google.
Amazon, for example, has an extremely popular affiliate program. All you need to do is search their page before you find a brand (or class of products) that you are willing to promote.
Another choice is to locate affiliate marketplace places such as ClickBank or CJ which link brand owners to affiliates.
Then then, just look at the products and services you use yourself and see if you can become an associate.
- “Niche down” approach –
You could begin with a very large keyword and narrow down until you see an interesting opportunity.
For example, I’m going to choose “music” as my super wide niche. The Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool gives me nearly 5 million keyword ideas for the seed keyword:
To order to “nest,” I need to rely on shorter and more descriptive keywords that have the term “art” to them. So I’m going to use the “Names” filter to narrow down the huge list of keyword suggestions to those with precisely four names.
Here’s what I was able to find:
- “Song makes technology-free “— Being an ex-DJ, I know there’s a lot of apps to make music. So I could begin a review site to cover all the latest releases and changes.
- “The Game of Thrones Music “— People want to stream the music they use in films, TV series, TV shows, etc. And provided that new TV material is being launched on a regular basis, this could be a nice market.
- “Gifts to music lovers “— I’m sure a lot of famous music groups and leading music labels have a variety of goods to purchase for their followers. Not to mention musical instrument companies such as Gibson, Fender, etc. We must also have many decent gift solutions.
- “Children’s Music Games “— Being the father of an 8-month-old kid, I’d totally play some fun music games with him.
These niche ideas are obviously far from perfect, but hey, I’ve spent no more than five minutes to find them. Invest a little more time, and you will inevitably stumble upon something awesome.
- Generate keyword ideas –
So you’ve found out your seed keywords. But that’s just the tip of an iceberg research keyword. The next step is to create a mammoth list of relevant keyword ideas, while also getting a good understanding of what people in your niche are looking for in Google.
There are at least four good ways to do that.
- See what keywords you already rank for –
If you own a blog that’s been around for a while now, you should be listed by Google with a couple of hundred keywords. Understanding what they are is the perfect way to kick-start work on your keyword.
A report called “Data Analytics” in the Google Search Console is a great source of this information:
Search Console shows your average position for each keyword you rank and how many impressions and clicks this will give you. They do not display the monthly search volume, however, and you are limited to 1000 keywords only.
If you need more information, try the “Organic Keywords” document in the Ahrefs Site Explorer tool:
2. See which keywords your competitors are ranking for.-
Chances are, the opponents have already completed all the tiresome keyword research work for you. So you can check for the keywords that we list and pick the best ones.
If you don’t realize who your opponents are, just place your seed keywords in Google and see who’s on the front line.
Let’s do that with the seed keyword I discovered earlier, “Gifts for music lovers.” I see an impressive web rating on the front page, uncommongoods.com.
Now insert the website into Ahrefs ‘ Web Explorer and search the keywords that it lists for:
Sometimes even a single competitor will give you enough keyword ideas to keep the SEO group occupied for months to come. But if you’re looking for more, you can go to the Competing Domains document to discover other places like your rival.
And we’ve just closed the “competitive research loop”:
- Place your seed keyword in Google and see who’s at the top;
- Plug their site in Ahrefs to see their latest keywords;
- Find more related websites through the Competing Domains report;
- Go back to either step 1 or 2.
The secret to almost infinite keyword suggestions is to repeat the process over and over again.
And do not forget tapping into related industries. You may find a lot of good keywords that don’t necessarily relate to whatever you’re selling but can still attract really focused traffic to your website.
3. Use keyword research tools
Great market analysis is often enough to fill your list with a lot of appropriate keyword concepts.
But if you’re one of the giants in your field, the approach isn’t quite feasible for you. You’ve got to look for some special keywords that none of the rivals are doing yet.
And the best way to do this is to use a good keyword research tool. Fortunately, there is no lack of them on the market:
- &quite a few more
Irrespective of the tool you choose, there is no preferred workflow for finding great keyword ideas. Just enter your seed keywords and play with the reports and filters until you find something cool.
Most tools will draw their keyword suggestions from the following sources:
- scraping keyword ideas directly from Google Keyword Planner;
- scraping Google auto-suggest;
- scraping “similar searches” in Google.
These methods are great, but they rarely give you more than a few hundred suggestions. For example, UberSuggest only displays 316 keyword ideas for content marketing.
There are also advanced keyword research tools (Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush) that operate their own keyword database and therefore give you vastly more keyword ideas.
For example, Ahrefs Keywords Explorer displays 5,570 keyword ideas for content marketing.
You can quickly go crazy attempting to sift through a keyword list of that length, so we’ve got some great sorting choices in place:
- Keyword difficulty;
- Search volume;
- Clicks per search;
- Cost per click;
- Return rate;
- Number of words in a keyword;
- Include/Exclude terms.
4.Study your niche well
The above-mentioned keyword analysis techniques are extremely effective and provide an almost unlimited number of keyword ideas. But at the same moment, they’re kind of holding you “in the bag.”
Perhaps, just by testing your niche properly (and applying a touch of common sense), you will find some good keywords that nobody in your niche is hitting.
Here’s how to kickstart “out of the bag” by thinking:
- Get in the shoes of your potential customers: who they are and what is bothering them;
- Talk to your existing customers, get to know them better, study the language they use;
- Be an active participant in all of the niche groups and social networks.
For instance, if you’re selling waterproof headphones, here are some of the keywords “out of the package” that you might want to target:
- How to survive a tough swim practice;
- How to make swimming training move faster;
- What do you do when you’re swimming;
- Good swimming style for long distances;
- Reduce water friction through swimming.
People looking for these items don’t really want to purchase waterproof headphones, but they should be pretty easy to sell.
3.Understand keyword metrics
During the implementation of the techniques described above, you will find yourself sifting through thousands of keyword ideas and trying to decide which of them deserve to be shortlisted.
And to help you distinguish the grain from the powder, there’s a lot of fun keyword indicators to remember.
- Search volume
That statistic tells you the total query request for a keyword, i.e. how many times people around the world (or in a particular country) have inserted that keyword in Search.
Most of the keyword research tools derive their Search volume statistics from Google AdWords, which has long been considered a reliable source of this information.
But it’s no more. Over the last few years, Google has gradually excluded information from SEOs:
- Google Keyword Planner’s Dirty Secrets
- Sweating the Details – Rethinking Google Keyword Tool Volume
Through modeling GKP numbers against clickstream data, we are able to generate much more reliable search volumes and ungroup keywords of similar meanings.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fluid complexity of Search volume.
For eg, a keyword like “Christmas Gifts” would obviously surge at Christmas time despite seeing virtually no search volume for the rest of the year.
You can use a free tool called Google Trends to check the trend in the search volume of a keyword:
And if you’re using the Ahrefs Keywords Explorer app, we have a different chart built into it:
So the search volume is effectively the annual average. And if you’re in question about the “seasonality” of the term, make sure to check the patterns.
But there is one issue with the size of the quest. It’s not always possible to forecast the search traffic.
Consider the phrase, “Donald trump era,” which has a search volume of 246,000 searches each month (according to the Google Phrase Planner).
That huge search demand means that if you rank at the top of Google for that keyword, you should get a massive amount of traffic. But let’s see what the results of the search look like:
A fair share of Google’s real estate is the immediate answer to the search request: 70 years.
So, does it make sense to click anything at this point?
These “uncommon” search results are known as “SERP features” and there are quite a few different types of search results:
- knowledge cards;
- featured snippets;
- top stories;
- local packs;
- shopping results;
- image packs, etc.
Some of them will greatly improve the search traffic on your page, but others will take it from you.
On the screenshot above from Ahrefs ‘ Keywords Explorer, you can see that 86 percent of the searches for “Donald trump age” do not result in any clicks on the search results. All because the searchers are met with an immediate answer via the Knowledge Card.
The Clicks metric is completely useful in weeding search queries with a big query request but a horrible flow. And we’re happy to have this measure as the only resource on the market.
We’re still able to show you how many clicks the search ads “stolen”:
On the screenshot above, you can see that a fair share of clicks for “wireless headphones” go to search ads, whereas clicking for “best wireless headphones” is almost entirely organic.
3. Traffic potential
Search volume and clicks are great metrics for understanding the popularity and traffic of a single keyword. But that keyword may have a ton of synonyms and related searches, all of which may be targeted by a single page on your website.
Let me clarify to you what I mean by an example. The keyword “I’m sorry flowers” is not very good in terms of search request and traffic:
The # 1 rating result is usually no more than 30 percent of all clicks. This ensures that you can expect around 60 visits every month when you rate # 1 for the keyword “I’m sorry for flowers.”
And that’s a bit disappointing prediction, isn’t it?
But let’s look at how much traffic the # 1 rating site for the keyword “I’m sorry flowers” really gets:
On the screenshot above, you can see that almost 300 visitors per month are attracted to Google. That’s because it ranks for 48 different keywords, not just the keyword “I’m sorry flowers.”
We’ve been promoting the value of long-distance travel for quite a while (here, here, and here), but it doesn’t help to emphasize it again.
People are searching for the same stuff in all sorts of strange forms. So a single page on your website has the potential to rank hundreds (if not thousands) of related keywords.
Here are the keywords that the “I’m sorry flowers” page ranks for, according to Ahrefs:
So it’s time to stop evaluating keywords just by their Search volume (or Clicks) alone. You need to look at the top-ranking results and see how much search traffic they get in total.
- Keyword Difficulty
Undoubtedly, the best way to gage the ranking difficulty of a keyword is to manually analyze the search results and use your SEO (and intestinal) experience.
Each keyword visualization tool has its own methods of measuring ranking difficulty score. The one we have at Ahrefs is based on the backlink profiles of the top 10 ranking pages for the keyword. The more high-quality backlinks they have, the harder it would be if you could outrank them.
To date, there has been only one study comparing the reliability of keyword complexity scores from different tools, and Ahrefs has been the winner of this test:
- Cost Per Click
This measure is more critical for marketers than for SEOs. Nevertheless, most SEO practitioners view CPC as an example of the commercial purpose of keywords (which really makes a lot of sense).
One important thing to know about Cost Per Click is that it’s a lot more volatile than the Search volume. While the keyword search demand fluctuates on a monthly basis, its CPC can change almost any minute.
Therefore, the CPC values you see in third-party keyword research tools are nothing but a snapshot of a certain timeframe. You need to use AdWords if you want to get the actual data.
4. Group your list of keywords
So you’ve generated a ton of promising keyword ideas and used the above metrics to identify the best ones.
Now it’s time to add some structure to your list.
1. Group by “parent topic”–
The days of advertising a specific keyword with a single page were long gone. Currently SEO practitioners are experiencing a whole new struggle:
Should I address a bunch of relevant topics with a single page a nd create a separate page for each collection of keywords?
We know that one page can rank hundreds (if not thousands) of relevant keywords. But how much of it is too much? And how do you know which keywords fit your subject, and which are not?
The way we approach it here at Ahrefs is by looking at the keywords that the top-ranking sites of our goal keyword already list.
Of example, the main keyword of this very article is (obviously) “Keyword Analysis.” And I want to see what other related keywords I should rate along with.
So I’m taking the #1 “Keyword Research” ranking page, put it in Ahrefs ‘ Site Explorer, and sift through the keywords that it ranks for:
And in an instant, I can see two decent keywords:
- keyword analysis — 1,400
- keyword search — 6,200
This ensures that I don’t have to build individual pages to address all of these keywords (though they may possibly merit it), but aim to rank with this single post.
How do I refine my page to make sure I’m ranked for these specific keywords?
The # 1 dating site doesn’t even have a single mention of these keywords, and still scores with them. So if they weren’t troubling me, why should I?
So that’s the very first move in adding any order to your arbitrary keyword chart. You need to identify what keywords are semantically or contextually linked and group them under the “parent subject” to a single page goal.
2. Group by intent
So you’ve grouped semantically related keywords into the “parent topic” and mapped them to different pages of your website. The next step is to group these “pages” with the so-called “searchers ‘ intent.”
There is a certain (and often very specific) expectation behind every search query that people put into Google. Your goal is to decipher that expectation in advance, so that you can build a page that matches it perfectly.
At times, this could be quite difficult. Take the phrase, “roses,” for example. What’s the intention of the searchers behind it? Very probably, it’s one of the two:
- See some pictures of roses.
- Learn more about this flower.
The best way to discern the meaning behind the search query is to google it and see what emerges first. Google is getting better and better at recognizing the meaning behind each search query, and search results usually speak for themselves.
The SERP above serves both of these purposes with an image strip, followed by a Wikipedia link.
But then you get the Guns’N’Roses Twitter profile and the Chainsmokers song. What do they do in the search results for the keyword “roses”
Okay, it seems like Google has found what people looking for the term “roses” want to see.
When you find out the reason behind the keywords, you might want to map it to the phase of the sales cycle that it represents:
- Problem aware;
- Solution aware;
- Product aware;
- Fully aware.
The bullet points above are just one of the numerous directions that various advertisers plot out the so-called “Buyers ‘ Journey.” Here’s an alternate glimpse at it:
Whether you want to map your keywords to any of the existing models or come up with your own, that’s entirely up to you. For example, GoInflow.com’s Everett Sizemore recommends mapping keywords/topics to clients. Below, test out his free template.
My advice would be to stick to anything that makes the most sense to you.
3. Group by business value
In fact, this grouping is closely linked to the grouping by intention. But this time, you need to figure out which intention is driving the best ROI for your business.
If you’re mainly looking for clicks or brand awareness, you might want to concentrate on keywords that attract lots of hits but don’t automatically translate into leads or sales.
That’s what HubSpot is doing with the material on their website. Take a look at their best-performing papers through Ahrefs:
There are tons of people asking for “how to create a gif” and HubSpot attracts nearly 100k tourists on its own.
But how hard would it be to convert someone looking to create a gif to buy a rather complex marketing software like the one that HubSpot sells?
If you have limitless marketing budgets, both weapons can be shot at once. But most companies can’t afford that privilege, so they need to think well about which keywords can push their market and which ones will only drive their vanity metrics.
Prioritization is not really a “final step” in your keyword research process, but rather something you do naturally as you move through the above steps.
While generating keyword ideas, analyzing their metrics, and grouping them together, you should note the following:
- What is the projected traffic capacity for this keyword (group)?
- So hard is the market, huh? What’s it going to take to rate for?
- How much money should be spent on creating and fostering a profitable page?
- What the heck is the ROI of that traffic? Does it only carry brand awareness, or does it really turn into leads and sales?
You can go as far as adding dedicated columns to your keyword research spreadsheet to give scores to each keyword idea. Then, based on these scores, it should be pretty easy to pick the “low hanging fruit” with the best ROI.
Always remember, this isn’t the “most easy to rank” keywords you should be looking for. They’re the ones with the best ROI.